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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Nondestructive Hard Disk Partitioning with FIPS

FIPS, which stands for First (nondestructive) Interactive Partition Splitting, is a partitioning program designed to run under DOS or Windows in DOS mode. It splits an existing DOS partition into two at the point you specify. You can then use the new partition it creates as the space for FreeBSD. Note that FIPS works only with DOS-style partitions (FAT16 or FAT32). FIPS does not work with Windows NT/2000/XP NTFS partitions, nor does it work with Linux Ext2FS partitions. Finally, those running OS/2 need to be aware that FIPS does not work with HPFS partitions, either.

FIPS has a couple of limitations:

  • It cannot split an extended DOS partition, only a primary one. Extended DOS partitions are a form of second-level partitioning in common use in the DOS/Windows and Linux worlds; they allow a disk to contain more than the BIOS-supported four partitions by subdividing them and then providing access to them as though they were regular partitions. (FreeBSD doesn't use extended partitions; instead, it has the concept of slices and BSD partitions, which we will cover in Chapter 18, "Understanding Hard Disks and Filesystems.") If you are like most people running Windows 95 OSR2 or Windows 98, this will not be a problem because you likely have one primary partition that takes up the entire disk.

  • You cannot currently have more than three partitions on your disk. FIPS creates a new primary partition with the free space it is assigned. Because you can only have four partition entries on a disk, you can have no more than three existing partitions when you run FIPS.

If neither of these issues applies to you, and assuming you have made a backup, you are ready to begin the partitioning process.


Windows XP partitions are often formatted as NTFS. Because of this, FIPS may not work with Windows XP at all, even for Windows XP Home Edition. If you're using Windows XP or NT/2000 with an NTFS filesystem, you will need to look into the commercial Partition Magic for nondestructive disk partitioning.

Running ScanDisk and the Defragmenter

Before you use FIPS, you should run DOS or Windows ScanDisk to fix any problems on the disk. After ScanDisk has finished running, you need to run the disk defragmenter.

FIPS needs contiguous free space at the end of the drive in order to split the partition. It cannot split before the last sector on the disk containing data. Running the disk defragmenter moves all the data to the beginning of the disk without leaving holes in the middle.


Be aware that the defragmenter in Windows 2000 and XP often fails to move all files into a contiguous chunk; the NTFS filesystem tends to prevent this from working correctly, and defragmenting tools often leave large holes in the midst of the used disk space. Again, Partition Magic may be the best solution for these platforms if FIPS fails to find enough contiguous free space.

Depending on the speed of your computer, the size of your hard disk, how fast the disk is, and how badly fragmented it is, the defragmentation process could take anywhere from a few minutes to several hours.

Obtaining FIPS and Creating a Boot Disk

Once the defragmentation process is finished, you are ready to start FIPS. FIPS is located on this book's CD in the TOOLS directory with the name FIPS.EXE. You also want the files named RESTORRB.EXE and ERRORS.TXT from the CD. You can also download FIPS from the FreeBSD FTP server at ftp.freebsd.org or one of its mirror sites in the directory /pub/FreeBSD/tools/fips.exe. You can download restorrb.exe from the same directory.

You should create a bootable floppy and copy the three files mentioned previously to it. In DOS or Windows, you can create a bootable floppy from a DOS prompt with the command format a: /s, assuming that you have a blank floppy in drive A. The following is a sample procedure for creating the boot disk:

C:\> format a: /s
Insert new diskette in drive A:
and press ENTER when ready...

Checking existing disk format.
Verifying 1.44M
Format complete.
System transferred

Volume label (11 characters, ENTER for none)?

  1,457,664 bytes total disk space
   388,608 bytes used by system
  1,069,056 bytes available on disk

    512 bytes in each allocation unit.
    2,088 allocation units available on disk.

Volume Serial Number is 031B-0831

Format another (Y/N)? n

D:\>cd tools
D:\TOOLS>copy fips.exe a:\
  1 file(s) copied
d:\TOOLS>copy restorerb.exe a:\
  1 file(s) copied
D:\TOOLS>copy errors.txt a:\
  1 file(S) copied


You cannot use format a: /s to create a bootable floppy under Windows 2000 or XP. You will need to use Windows 95 or 98 for this task.

When you've created the bootable floppy, use it to reboot your system. After the system has finished booting, type fips at the DOS prompt to start the FIPS program.

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